Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Great New Book A Must Read For all Veterans

Just a Walk in the Park

Tom Nolan

This book is a rocket ride from Tom's childhood to the end of his dreams. The road has many pot holes filled with gut wrenching laughter and spiced with the bitter sweet memories of lost friendships. The road is not paved ... read book detail

Book Excerpt


May 1967

Rice Paddy Queens—Definition: Women who work the rice paddies twelve hours a day. They spend weeks doing back-breaking work, planting the rice. Then they have to irrigate the shoots as they grow. During the dry season, the women carry yokes across their shoulders with five gallon buckets on each end. They walk down the sandy embankment to the river, fill up each bucket, and climb back up again. They then empty the buckets into the fields and start all over again. Their legs are bowed and incredibly strong.

I think everyone was in awe of these women. Their bathroom was a rice paddy and they would drop their drawers and squat anywhere. The sight was a little shocking at first and then it became ho-hum. The women would chew the beetle nut to be able to withstand the grueling regimen of this job. They were one hundred pounds of solid, gristly muscle and they were the toughest human beings I have ever seen. They had lived at war for thirty years. They had seen it all and were not impressed a bit by us marines.

By May, Nolan estimated that he had pissed off everyone in his platoon. He didn’t mind. Nobody liked him much anyway—such is the life of a morbid practical joker. The squad was searching a village somewhere in Quang Tri province. The place didn’t appear as if anyone lived there and it looked like an NVA rest-stop. There were just three scraggly-looking chickens running around. In the real world, they would have been exterminated. They had breasts about the size of a robin’s, but to us they looked like Colonel Sanders’ Kentucky fried.

Corporal Nolan was quite positive that Corporal Dangelo gave the order to capture the chickens. They may have been old and scraggly, but them fuckers could run. They had Nolan and the Jet, the two fastest, to chase them down. They chased the malnourished birds until they finally collapsed. Maples said that Nolan was so ugly that, when the chickens saw him, they fainted and that is how they were really captured. The birds were dispatched and skinned in two minutes. Nolan and Martines were cleaning them out and saw that they were full of worms. The sight was so disgusting they decided not to tell the other guys and ruin their dinner. They cooked the wormy chickens and nobody seemed to even notice any bad taste. Martines, aka The Mex, and Nolan now wished they had not seen the worms. They were eating the chicken with the other guys.

Once the chicken was devoured, Mex said, “Let’s tell them about the worms.” The sad truth about this story is that Mex was completely innocent. And he was far too nice a guy to blame. Nolan then admitted, once and for all, that it was his fault, and he laughed his fool head off. I finally confessed. When Nolan told them about the worms, his buddies told him that he was full of shit. They threatened to kick his ass. So he got a board and carried all the chicken guts on it to show them. When the worms poked their little heads out of the chicken guts, Nolan nearly lost his. The only one coming close to having a health problem over the chickens was Nolan.
There were several death threats, but he knew they were only kidding. Maples made up a joke about tying Nolan down and stuffing the chicken guts up his bony ass. “Hey, in some countries maggots and worms are a delicacy,” Nolan protested. They were just an unsophisticated boorish lot that didn’t appreciate the finer things in life.

Besides, Nolan knew not a one of them could catch him to stuff his bony ass.

Nolan didn’t have the last laugh on his buddies this time. He was sitting next to his buddy Mex, who seemed to be his only friend at the moment and Nolan wasn’t too sure about him either. The rest of the squad had deranged looks on their faces and were starting to rattle Nolan with their whispering. Corporal Nolan thought he might suggest a poker game to Maples, which had always won him back over to Nolan’s side.
Maples replied, “It’s your ass we want, not your money, Nolan.”
“He’s a rather surly beast, wouldn’t you say so?” Nolan asked to no one in particular.

Corporal Nolan then tried to butter up his friend Dangelo, but he wasn’t there. Some impersonator wearing his uniform was talking about shooting Nolan’s ass. These guys seemed obsessed by Nolan’s ass. What were they, damn hillbillies? Nolan now looked to his right and saw that Mex had jumped ship and rejoined the chicken eaters.

The possibility of wise-ass Nolan’s demise was now about fifty-fifty. He knew he had reached the end of his rope and almost thought about apologizing. . .almost. He was saved from this humiliation by a five-foot tall rice paddy queen. She had been living all alone in the village and those were her chickens. She ran up with a heavy stick and, to Nolan’s delight, she starting whacking all his friends.
Nolan yelled to her, “I told them not to eat your chickens!”
By the time she had hit every one of them, her fury was just getting started. Corporal Nolan followed the normal Marine Corps procedure; he looked around at everyone else like he was an innocent. This ploy lasted about two to three seconds—until everyone in the squad pointed to Corporal Nolan and yelled, “That asshole over there, Paddy Queen!” The five-foot, purple-toothed paddy queen saw Nolan being pointed at and crouched to ready for her attack. Before he could react, she swung at him and almost missed. The wooden stick hit him on the very end of his long, pointy nose, causing an immediate shot of pain deep into his little pea-brain. It hurt so bad that he thought for a second of sucker-punching this one-hundred-pound paddy queen. He also thought, “If she hits me a couple more times with that stick, I might just give up.”

He just decided to give her the finger and walk off. She might have let him escape, if he hadn’t showed her such a lack of respect. He saw her swing at him out of the corner of his eye and he stepped back. She missed, but Nolan slipped on the board with the wormy chicken guts and fell on his back. The ground was baked clay and was as soft as pig iron. He was now stunned and had the wormy chicken guts all over himself. The dust was kicking up and sticking to the chicken guts. The Corporal was becoming a god-awful sight and smell. Corporal Dangelo said that Nolan was turning into some kind of human landfill.

In his stunned condition, Nolan had completely forgotten about Queenie until she came leaping out of the dust clouds. She was swinging her stick like some kind of psychotic samurai warrior. She intentionally tripped him with the stick and he landed hard on his face, giving him a bloody nose. He could hardly see with all the dust in his eyes and then his bloody nose started to make his eyes water. Corporal Nolan’s buddy Maples told everyone that she had beaten him up and he was crying.

There was a smack on one of his shins and now he could hardly stand up. Holy shit, did that hurt! Then she started poking at Nolan and he couldn’t see it coming. “There’s a distinct possibility I might have to shoot this bitch in the leg to slow her down,” he thought. He later said he was only kidding when he screamed in a girlish voice, “Somebody kill the paddy monster!” Maples was now putting Nolan at even money to beat up this paddy monster. He later heard that Maples and Dangelo put all their money on the paddy queen. That’s why they said they were cheering her on. Liars!

After a fierce struggle, Nolan grabbed her arms. She felt like a muscle-bound snake. She was probably only thirty, but looked about seventy. She worked in the rice paddies twelve hours a day and was incredibly strong for her size. Honestly, when he finally got her under control, she just glared at him. Her purple teeth were rotted into razor sharp fangs. As she hissed at Nolan, he decided he might have to throw her into the village well. Nolan’s composure returned and he saw all his chicken-thieving friends laughing at him. He then noticed that his buddy Martines was even laughing at him. He lost his concentration for one split-second and she was free. Nolan said, “To hell with it,” and turned to make a hasty retreat.

Corporal Dangelo later told Nolan the Rice Paddy Monster looked like one of those jumping spiders. She was on his back tighter than a pony saddle on a Clydesdale’s back. When he reached back to pull her off, she sunk her purple fangs into his thumb. The monster had his hand in her mouth and Nolan thought she was trying to eat him alive. He yanked his hand out of the purple-toothed vampire’s mouth before she gnawed him up to the elbow. When he got the arm back, she locked her legs around his neck in a grip Hulk Hogan couldn’t have broken. Corporal Nolan gasped for air as he tried to run backward into a tree to dislodge her, but at the last second, she moved out of the way and he gouged his own neck instead. Corporal Nolan immediately assumed she had bitten him and thought she might be some kind of crazy Asian vampire. He started to look for a stake to drive into her heart or at least some help from his friends, but there was no stake to be found and his friends were too busy laughing like jackasses.

This was starting to look like a fight to the death. So far, Nolan was the one staring death in the face. He almost would have preferred to embrace death rather than face the humiliation that was going to be piled on him if he ever made it out of this self-made fix he was now in. This thought pumped him full of adrenaline and gave him the necessary strength to be able to break free. The two warriors warily circled, each waiting for the other to make the first move. Nolan would have liked to shoot Maples and Dangelo when he saw them leading a cheering section. They were making up some kind of fighting song for the Paddy Monster. Nolan said, “I have changed my strategy and plan to shoot the bitch through the heart if I can find a silver bullet, and I am 100% positive this woman could beat up Woody, Maples, and Dangelo, and probably at the same time.” He also knew that he was still not out of this mess alive. At this point, the only thing keeping him from giving up his life to the Paddy Monster was the plan he had in store for Maples and Dangelo. Once again, Nolan had blamed everything on someone else. This is a long-honored Marine tradition and a major rite of passage.

Jesus Christ! She swung her stick and tried to hit him in the nuts. The chicken thieves were now bending over with laughter. Corporal Nolan thought he would run down the trail and, when she followed, he would turn around and throw a grenade at her. Nolan thought he would have no choice but to kill his two friends Maples and Dangelo. . .and the thought was not very unpleasant at all.

Lieutenant Little arrived like the cavalry and took charge of the situation. The Lieutenant finally reached an agreement that suited the paddy queen. Nolan had to pay the woman $20 out of his own pocket for the three wormy chickens. She could have bought a whole flock of wormy chickens for that price. When he asked his chicken-thieving buddies for donations, they must have misunderstood him. He thought they said “Kiss my ass” as they walked off. They seemed real concerned about Corporal Nolan’s ass; I bet’cha they cannot wait for the next opportunity in combat to save Nolan’s ass. Nolan figured out he was paying $7 a pound for those wormy chickens.
The general consensus was: She would have made a hell of a marine.